March 8, 2013 at 9:43 am EDT | by Kevin Naff
Bill Clinton’s desperate bid to rewrite history

Former President Bill Clinton today penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, disavowing the discriminatory and unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act that he signed into law 17 years ago.

It’s a typically cynical, desperate bid to rewrite history.

Clinton now suggests that his support for DOMA was really intended to thwart a constitutional amendment that would have banned marriage equality for a generation or more.

The truth is that Clinton said at the time that he “had long agreed with the principles in the bill but hoped it would not be used to justify discrimination against homosexuals,” according to the New York Times. Of course, the point of DOMA was to discriminate. What’s worse, Clinton bragged about his support for DOMA in radio ads during his 1996 re-election campaign against former Sen. Bob Dole, after criticizing Republicans for “gay-baiting.” In the same ads currying support among Christian conservatives, Clinton announced his newfound support for abortion restrictions.

Nearly a year after President Obama’s courageous endorsement of marriage equality, Clinton chimes in from the safe confines of retirement. Meanwhile, Hillary, still adored by legions of gay fans waiting breathlessly for 2016, has yet to utter a word about marriage.

Clinton’s op-ed is a naked attempt to get on the right side of history before the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA. He sounds desperate, highlighting the fact that “DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.” That only makes his support worse — at least 81 other politicians at the time had the sense and foresight to oppose the discriminatory measure. The op-ed, of course, contains no apology from Clinton for enacting the most hideous piece of anti-gay legislation ever conceived in this country. DOMA has literally destroyed the lives of countless couples — from the financial ruin triggered when a surviving partner is faced with crippling tax bills to the separation of thousands of bi-national couples forced to choose between love and country.

But never mind all those ruined lives. Clinton was just trying to spare us a constitutional amendment. Cue the parade of gay rights advocates, who will commence tripping over themselves to praise Clinton’s bold stance for equality. HRC’s Chad Griffin has already called Clinton’s op-ed “eloquent.”

If we’re going to so easily forgive and forget Clinton’s anti-gay sins, then our advocates should be consistent and shower former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman with similar praise and awards. As horrible as Mehlman’s record is, at least no one ever elected him president; and he’s been working hard to raise money for marriage equality since coming out of the closet and repudiating his own dirty deeds.

This warm-and-fuzzy new era of gay love is gratifying for those of us who’ve been working for change for years and decades. And although we should welcome converts to the cause, we must not forget the past or rewrite the ugly history that relegated LGBT people to second-class status. Clinton represents cynicism and politics at its most self-aggrandizing. Obama is the real deal — the president who is leading Americans to a true revolution in thinking on LGBT equality.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

  • Thanks for this eloquent commentary on Clintonland. I have long been intrigued where the fascination with the Clintons comes given their dismal record on so many progressive issues.

  • “If we’re going to so easily forgive and forget Clinton’s anti-gay sins, then our advocates should be consistent and shower former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman with similar praise and awards.”

    And if you’re going to hammer Bill fpr practicing just the sort of pragmatism that this publication regularly praised Barney Frank and any other gay politico at any level of government who could slobber out the phrase ‘incremental progress’ any time an excuse was necessary to throw trans people under the anti-discrimination bus (and then back up and run us over a few more times for good measure), then just admit it: You have no actual principles; you want what you want and you want gay marriage.

    Want to argue fraudulent history and political philosophy? How about pointing out the abject failure of the Barney-HRC psychosis of keeping trans people out of ENDA then (and, given that there has been no true live ENDA proposal since 2007, even now)? Or is it bad manners to point out that keeping us out in 1996 didn’t didn’t do squat to get ENDA over the hump in that theatrical vote to try to attach it to DOMA but did reinforce all of the concrete in the road to everlasting distrust of Gay, Inc. by trans people?

    I don’t worship either Clinton, but just what the f**k did you actually expect him to do with his presidential re-election coming at the height of the Gingrich ‘Contract on America’ era? Unlike any instance where ‘incremental progress’ has been cited as a justification for throwing trans people under the bus, how was the pragmatism of signing the thing anything other than his only option for DOMA? Bob Dole was a walking fossil and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pat Robertson who had no real chance of unseating Clinton, but a DOMA veto or even letting it become law sans signature would have been a shot of viagra for Dole’s campaign and possibly a noose around Clinton’s.

  • Thank you, Kevin. I almost thought I was the only one to remember what really happened. This had nothing to do with a constitutional amendment and everything to do with re-electing himself at the expense of LGBT rights and dignity.

  • A Clinton campaign office ran one DOMA ad in Georgia. If there was any "bragging" it was about getting conservative voters to believe Clinton was anti-gay when he wasn't. The "bragging" included some comments about "stupid voters", as I recall.

  • I totally agree with you Kevin. Bill is trying to rewrite history instead of owning the fact that he agreed to the 2 most anti gay pieces of legislation 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and DOMA. I would have had much more respect if he would just have issued a simple "I'm sorry, I was wrong.'

    • The idea that DADT was one of the most anti-gay pieces of legislation is completely wrong. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, Don't Harass" — the full title of the bill — was not implemented properly, but at the time of its passage, it was replacing policies that required the military to prescreen recruits for sexual orientation and seek out gay and lesbian service members, discharging any who were even thought to be LGB. The Clinton Administration WANTED to allow open service, but DADT was the best compromise they could get in Congress at the time. It prohibited asking, pursuing, and harassing recruits or service members. I'm not saying it was good policy, but it was a huge improvement at the time, and to try to paint it as part of a trend of Clinton Administration homophobia is ridiculous.

  • HRC’s Griffin through his effusiveness and disregard of Clinton’s culpability, diminishes his own LGBT advocacy credentials, failing into the pattern of so many HRC heads before him of having their vision obscured by the butt they are kissing. However, it assures you get invited to all the best parties.

    • “HRC’s Griffin through his effusiveness and disregard of Clinton’s culpability, diminishes his own LGBT advocacy credentials”

      I’ve yet to see any evidence that he has any credentials on anything other than gay marriage.

  • Obama is the real deal? Just 4 years ago he stood alongside EVERY major Democratic presidential candidate and declared over-and-over again that marriage was ONLY to be between and man and woman, NOT a gay couple.

    How quickly we forget that almost all politicians that are now pro-equality were at some point against equal civil rights for gays and lesbians. If you’re going to praise Obama and all of the other Democrats for their “evolving” (while ignoring their past discrimination) then you must do the same thing to every Republican that is also changing their tune…. or that will likely change their tune in the coming decade. Just like many Democrats eventually warmed up to civil rights for blacks. Some Democrats were loud racists but for some reason we conveniently ignore history.

    I don’t want to re-write history as it pertains to Clinton, Democrats, Republicans or Obama. There is “evolving” occurring from many politicians and this is ONLY because public sentiment has changed drastically in the past 5, 10 and 20 years. Clinton and Obama would continue to be anti-gay in their view of marriage if society hadn’t carried them and most other politicians along. We didn’t have politicians leading this battle for civil rights…. our politicians were FOLLOWING. That is not leadership.

    The Constitution never changed – but politicians did. Sadly it was not because of moral conscience after reading the Equal Protection Clause…. it was because society changed and it became politically safe (and increasingly expected) to become pro-equality. The same for businesses and corporate America.

    I am thankful for every politician that is evolving, whether Democrat or Republican. But, I will not consider them “leaders” when it comes to equality – nor will I re-write history and forget that Democrats have been just as anti-gay as Republicans if we look back 30 or 40 years. The entire country is changing…. but Democrats are moving slowly towards equality faster than our Republican friends.

    If you re-write history… it is likely because of your own political bias and prejudice.

  • Hillary Clinton, while at the State Department, aggressively advocated for gay Foreign Service officers (aka diplomats) and made gay rights promotion a centerpiece of her foreign policy. Let's not forget that, at the time DOMA was enacted, almost every Democrat of prominence opposed same-sex marriage. (Can you thing of even one who didn't?) Shall we pillar Bill Clinton, who was elected with less than 50 percent of the vote, for not standing up more strongly for gay people at a time when virtually nobody was doing so? (His veto of DOMA would have been futile.) If DOMA is struck down (and I pray it will be) it will be because two Clinton justices (Breyer and Ginsburg) will join two Obama justices (Kagan and Sotamayor) and one Reagan appointee (Kennedy) to stand up for the rights of gay Americans. I don't applaud Bill Clinton for signing DOMA. But I think condemning him for his too-late change of heart is pointless and mean. Gay Americans have far greater enemies than the Clintons!

  • "gay rights are human rights" – Hillary Clinton, 2011. Come on, why the need to blatantly lie about Hillary's VOCAL support of marriage equality for two years now?

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